Wilson was born in Southern California and attended Fullerton College. She participated in anti-Vietnam War protests while at Fullerton and marched with United Farmworkers Union leader César Chávez.
She learned activism at an early age.
“My dad would come home bloody (from AFL-CIO marches),” she remembered in 2001, “bloody from the police. There are a lot of good policemen, but every barrel has a couple of rotten ones. We need a citizen police review board.”
She became a Nevada resident in the early 1990s. Valencia Wilson was honored with the Nevada Alliance for Workers’ Rights (AWR) Sentinel Award in 2002.
She proved “instrumental in helping the alliance get a translator into agricultural areas to talk to non-English-speaking farm and ranch workers,” according to a 2002 Reno News & Review profile written by UNR journalism professor Deidre Pike.
“Not only was Mary a dear friend and loyal NAACP volunteer, but she was also a truly great advocate for equality and civil rights for all people,” said Reno-Sparks NAACP President Lonnie Feemster.
Wilson served on the boards of AWR, Washoe Legal Services and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. She was a longtime elected member of the Reno-Sparks NAACP executive committee and served as the organization’s political action chair. She sat on the advocacy committee of the League of United Latin American Citizens and was also instrumental in establishing the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN).
A memorial service will be announced later and posted at RenoSparksNAACP.org.